• Says doesn’t need ‘good ties’ with establishment while not in govt, admits ties soured during final days of his tenure
• Hints at possibility of army chief’s extension till elections
• Rana Sana says PTI will be given space to protest, but ‘armed gang’ will be prevented from marching on Red Zone
ISLAMABAD: Days after his party was advised by the chief justice to return to parliament, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Saturday said he was willing to withdraw their resignations from the National Assembly only if a probe was conducted into the alleged conspiracy that resulted in the ouster of his government.
Separately, speaking at a public meeting in Rahim Yar Khan on Saturday night, Mr Khan stopped short of giving a concrete plan for his planned anti-government movement, saying that he would remain in protest mode until fresh general elections were announced.
“I will give the call for protest when I am sure that all three wickets will fall with one ball,” the PTI chief said, without elaborating.
The “first priority” should be new elections no matter “what it takes”, said Mr Khan earlier in a TV interview. When asked about his thoughts on the army chief’s appointment or extension in Aaj News show Aaj Rana Mubashir Ke Saath, the former prime minister said: “If we are having elections then in that … if we can extend [the army chief’s term] until elections take place — it is possible and maybe there’s a provision. I’m not a lawyer but there must be some provision for this.”
Referring to the initial push against Islamabad on May 25, he told the public meeting in Rahim Yar Khan he was unaware that the PDM government had planned to unleash violence against them. “But now I know what Rana Sanaullah is up to, but he does not know what I will do,” Mr Khan said, urging his followers to be prepared to thwart any government plans to block their protest.
During a press conference on Saturday, when asked whether the government would adopt a strict approach towards the PTI’s planned protest, Mr Sanaullah had asked, rhetorically: “if a party says it is marching on Islamabad, what other response can be given?”
He said that if an “armed gang” came to the capital, it was obvious that law enforcement agencies would have to act and stop any such attempt.
“If he comes with the aim to protest, we will give them the place, give them security and even food. But if they want to trample the state or head towards the Red Zone, then it is our constitutional responsibility to stop such people.”
Earlier, speaking to reporters who cover the economy, the former prime minister said he would consider taking back the resignations submitted by the former ruling party in April if an inquiry was initiated into the cipher – already shared by the president with the chief justice.
The cipher, based on then-envoy Asad Majeed’s meeting with State Department official Donald Lu, is at the centre of PTI’s claim that the US conspired with elements within Pakistan to dislodge Mr Khan from office. Mr Khan, who has repeatedly accused the US of orchestrating his exit from power, said he was also ready to talk to the United States had his government not been ousted.
Mr Khan also took the opportunity to take swipes at former finance minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Ishaq Dar who is likely to come back to Pakistan soon and reportedly replace Miftah Ismail as the finance minister.
He said that the PML-N leader was being summoned to control the economic situation without realising that when Ishaq Dar exited Pakistan he had left the country on the brink of default.
Accompanied by PTI Secretary General Asad Umar, former finance minister Shaukat Tarin, and spokesperson for economic affairs Muzzammil Aslam, Mr Khan said that he had warned in May that the country was heading towards bankruptcy.
Ties with establishment
During the interaction, Mr Khan said that he had enjoyed good relations with the establishment when his party was in power, adding that relations between the two soured during his last days in power. He also claimed that now that he was not in the government anymore, he didn’t need to have a good working relationship with the powers-that-be.
“It is not my duty alone to keep on fighting against the corrupt and looters of the nation’s wealth,” he said during the public meeting.
He also regretted that all the power lay with the establishment but it was insisting on remaining neutral. “No one should play neutral when there is rampant corruption and looting and the country is being pushed down the path of crisis and bankruptcy,” he asserted.
Without naming any country, Mr Khan said those helping Pakistan come out of the economic crisis would demand a “heavy price” in return, while also warning that the collapse of the economy would the biggest threat to Pakistan’s sovereignty.
The ex-premier also promised more incentives for the industrial sector if he managed to rise to the power again. He added that he would also encourage overseas Pakistanis to invest in the country to boost foreign investments.
Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2022